hey siri, google "doors under rich person lawn gilded age what do"
April 13, 2020 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Are you quite sure that they're doors? They look more like a decorative niche, or perhaps a small gallery with decorative arches in front of it; maybe a few feet deep at most but not really door-like. Probably intended to be a nice place to walk or sit out of the sun, or if they're niches, intended to hold statuary.
posted by kalimac at 10:23 AM on April 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

Basically, kalimac has it. But sometimes there can be doors that lead into prosaic stuff like granaries or machinery for water techniques. In the example shown, I'm pretty certain they are just decorative.
posted by mumimor at 10:39 AM on April 13, 2020

Best answer: Definitely not just decorative.

That’s the casino at the Crane Estate in Ipswich MA. The pavilion had a swimming pool, and there were guest quarters and a billiards room tucked behind those doors back in the day.
posted by amelioration at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2020 [15 favorites]

If I were to guess, I'd think the doors would be a better spot for delivery of items you don't want coming directly into the main house (e.g. coal?) or entry for support staff. But I also don't see why the lord of the manse would want to look out his front window and see the proles unloading his necessities so perhaps that isn't accurate, and that sort of thing would come in a side entrance?
posted by caution live frogs at 10:44 AM on April 13, 2020

Best answer: It's not necessarily the case with this retaining wall, since the balustrade would be clearly visible from the house, but the word for a similar situation where a retaining wall interrupts a lawn, at least in an English context, is "ha-ha". If the functional concern of the wall here were similar to an English ha-ha, the doors might be there to dress up the wall because it would be anticipated that there would be people viewing it from that side, which wasn't always the case in English gardens where they separated livestock areas from the residential lawn. The pictured garden seems to draw some influence from the Villa d'Este, where the doors would contain grottoes with different kinds of amusements - kind of in line with amelioration's comment. Anyway, since it's underground, and not an actual "little house", I'd probably call whatever was behind those doors a grotto. The open space between the arches and the wall visible just behind them I'd call a gallery or loggia.
posted by LionIndex at 11:15 AM on April 13, 2020 [11 favorites]

To me it seems to reference the design of the orangerie at Versailles.
posted by sjswitzer at 11:16 AM on April 13, 2020

An actual side or rear door is (or was) called a postern.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:20 AM on April 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It is the Crane estate, as amelioration said. Here's a better picture.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:44 AM on April 13, 2020

There is a similar house in Greenwich, CT and I’m told the doors lead to an indoor swimming pool area underneath the house.
posted by slateyness at 1:25 PM on April 13, 2020

Best answer: That is the Crane Estate's Casino Complex and the niches were originally for statues, though they're large enough that they can also be used by people to rest or wait in the shade. The Crane Estate has an allée that runs a half mile from the main house (seen in your photo) all the way down to the beach where it meets the Atlantic. Given the slope of the drumlin that the house sits on, the land needed to be terraced at certain points. The landscape designers (there were various) corresponded those points with the roads on the property, as you can see from this satellite view of the estate (google maps), and they used the terracing to create additional living and entertainment spaces. I don't know if the roads were there first, or if the roads and the Casion Complex were conceived together. The Cranes also had a large cistern built to catch rainwater from the roof of the main house and it's possible that part of the cistern is under the allée behind which the casino sits.

From The Trustees of Reservations article about the restoration of the Casino Complex:
"The Casino – Italian for “little house” and a term used for centuries to describe small dwellings in gardens and landscapes that surround a villa – was a great collaboration between Shurcliff and the renowned Boston architectural firm Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge. Designed to be strategically situated away from and out of the sightline of the house so it would not block the sweeping ocean views, the Casino represents the most distinctive Italian Renaissance Revival-style architecture surviving from this period on the Estate. It originally featured a saltwater pool framed by trees, potted plants and statuaries and was flanked by two pavilions containing a former bachelor’s quarters (or, guest accommodations) on one side and a billiard hall and living area on the other."

Fun fact: the estate served at the setting for many locations in Greta Gerwig's film Little Women, as you can see from photos in a recent issue of Architectural Digest. The Casino stood in for Paris as Amy & Laurie were waiting for carriages.
posted by cocoagirl at 2:34 PM on April 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: It actually seems that Architect David Adler gained inspiration from the Peterhof Palace in St Petersburg which had the grand stairway with entrances to grottoes nearly identical to that on the Crane Estate. Even the same style of topiary trees are used in the same locations. Many early 20th century architects directly copied classic works of architecture that they studied on their European travels. Adler was no different. The Crane Estate drew much inspiration from the Belton House in England by Wren.
posted by JJ86 at 8:25 AM on April 14, 2020

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